11 things to do if your flight gets cancelled, according to an expert

·Lifestyle Editor
·7-min read
Rear tourist woman at international airport flight cancellation
Flight cancellations are common, but what should you do if it happens to you? (Photo via Getty Images)

Panic, anger, desperation — they're the range of emotions you might feel when hearing the dreaded words, "your flight has been cancelled."

It could be from bad weather, computer glitches, staffing shortages or even inflation, but no matter the reason, figuring out what to do can be a stressful challenge.

It's been a tough year and a half for air travellers, starting with the 2021/22 holiday season cancellations and peaking this summer, but Suzanne Evans, an independent travel agent based out of Stratford, Ont., believes all hope isn't lost.

"I know it seems impossible that you're flight's been cancelled, especially considering how many aircrafts certain airlines own, but it really is a common thing and sometimes it's out of everyone's control," Evans told Yahoo Canada. "There's definitely lots of ways you can still salvage your trip amidst the disappointment and chaos of a cancellation or delay, but always, always, always get travel insurance in case anything happens."

Read on to learn Evans's 11 best travel tips to surviving a flight cancellation like a pro.

Sad (tired) woman sitting in the airport - missed or cancelled flight concept.
A cancelled flight can be stressful and frustrating. (Photo via Getty Images)

1. Know your rights as a passenger

"Certain airlines will give you full refunds for flights, others won't. Some will give you vouchers for your next trip, others won't. It's all a toss up, so do your research and know what your chosen airline is entitled to offer you," Evans said.

Overall, there are no universal guidelines for passenger rights, and each airline has their own set of policies. If your flight is cancelled, you may be eligible for discounts, refunds, vouchers or free hotel stays, so read up on your rights, as well as the terms and conditions, before booking.

2. Find out the reason for the flight cancellation or delay

It's important to find out the reason for the flight cancellation, as it may impact your ability to receive compensation.

"If the cancellation is due to a reason outside of the airline's control, like extreme weather conditions, air traffic control problems, strikes or even unforeseen security measures, your right to compensation may not apply," Evans explained.

The travel agent further added that it might put your mind at ease to know the reason for the inconvenience, to help you move forward in a positive way.

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Close up of a young woman waiting to board the airplane at the airport
If your flight is cancelled or delayed, Evans suggests remaining calm and optimistic. (Photo via Getty Images)

3. Remain calm and optimistic

Flight cancellations are frustrating and stressful. It can be hard to wait around and wonder what will happen next.

As it can be a tense time, Evans recommends passengers "remain calm, kind and patient" to avoid additional anxiety.

"Just be nice to the airline employees. The cancellation might not be their fault, and being angry will not help your situation at all," added Evans. "It might even help your chances of rebooking and getting to your destination as quick as possible if you're just a nice and happy person."

If possible, make your way to a common area or lounge to gather your thoughts, assess the situation, and decide on your next steps.

4. Be proactive

When you hear the news of your cancelled flight, be proactive. Contact the airline or seek help at the airport with your next steps.

"It's important to get ahold of someone as soon as you can, either on the phone or a customer service representative at the airport," Evans stated. "Just get as much information as they will tell you, and if you do get a hold of someone, ask about rebooking or compensation options."

Another option is to take advantage of social media by reaching out to the airline on Twitter or Instagram, as well as the airline's app or website.

Black woman with cell phone flight  and carry-on baggage in station
In the event of a cancellation, be proactive and contact a customer service representative or your airline. (Photo via Getty Images)

5. Adjust the rest of your itinerary

If you already have a hotel booked at your destination that you know you won't make, Evans suggests getting on the phone or sending some emails to let them know about your cancelled flight.

The same applies to rental cars, restaurants or other events you have booked. "It's just the courteous thing to do," explained Evans.

Often, hotels or car rental agencies will be able to work with you to rebook your reservations.

6. Update your documents and write down everything

Hold on to any receipts for costs that are a direct result of a cancelled flight, as well as your boarding pass and related travel documents that can verify the cancellation. Also make note of the exact times you are able to rebook your flight and when you arrive at your destination.

"If you have all your facts and proof in order, it just makes dealing with airline companies after the fact so much easier, because they will be wanting this information," added Evans.

Further, if you have travel insurance, ask the airline for a travel insurance letter as this will be required for your chosen policy to come into effect.

Woman’s hands holding passports & boarding passes of her family while waiting at the check-in counter in the airport.
Keep hold of all of your travel documents during your trip. (Photo via Getty Images)

7. If it's late, book a hotel

If you know you won't be able to travel until the next day, Evans suggests booking a hotel, or asking the airline for accommodation options. Use this time to relax and recharge and help get your next steps in order.

"There's no point stranding yourself in the airport overnight if there's nothing you can do," Evans said. "You'll be tired from all the stress, so a good night's sleep is probably the best thing to get."

8. Seek help from other airlines

One mistake Evans sees her clients make is to remain faithful to the original airline.

"Sometimes, options are limited for your airline of choice. There's nothing wrong with switching to another company because they could offer you cheaper boarding passes or even quicker flights to your destination," revealed Evans.

This approach also extends to other travel companies, customer service agents or booking centres. If it's going to help you reach your destination, it's worth it.

Photo taken in Prague, Czech Republic flight
Sometimes, airlines will offer same-day standby flights that help you get to your destination early. (Photo via Getty Images)

9. Explore options for rebooking

Sometimes, airlines will offer same-day standby flights that help you get to your destination early.

"Of course there's always the option of rebooking a flight flat out, but there are other options some people don't know about like stand-by flights that happen that same day!" shared Evans. "It's not foolproof, but it can be a possibility."

10. Trust your gut

When it comes down to it, Evans recommended trusting your gut and "go with whatever option feels right for you after the cancellation."

As it's already a stressful situation, don't put yourself in a worse position by doing something that makes you uncomfortable. If it means getting to your destination much later than intended, Evans thinks that's something to consider.

11. Do your research beforehand

"Already have a plan B before your flight is scheduled to depart. This will make cancellations or delays considerably less stressful if it happens, because you'll already have a plan," said Evans.

If you have a back-up itinerary, Evans added that it can speed up the process when talking to customer service to rebook your plans, and it will give you an option that you feel comfortable with.

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